Thursday, January 27, 2011

The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed at PlayMakers!

Four 12’ x 12’ panels of The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed in the PlayMakers lobby throughout the run of Angels in America, including 2 early pieces in memory of Roy Cohn.

Established in 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation – the international caretaker of The Quilt -- works to preserve, care for and use The AIDS Memorial Quilt to foster healing, advance social justice and inspire action. The Quilt began in San Francisco more than 20 years ago with a single 3 x 6 foot panel and today this epic tapestry of hope and love includes more than 47,000 panels. These panels have come from every state in the nation and have been created by friends, lovers and family members in an attempt to transform loss and heartbreak into hope and healing.

To see the panels, just stop by the Playmakers lobby anytime between February 2 and March 6. And while you're there, why not check out a performance of Angels in America?

Here are the four panels that will be on display:
(Click the image to see a larger version)

Learn more about the display here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making angels

Our scenic artists and carpenters are hard at work this week building the world for Angels in America. Check out this backstage photo of the Bethesda Angel in construction.

The original version of this angel stands on the Bethesda Fountain in New York City's Central Park, one of the many locations included in Angels in America

You may also recognize this angel from the show art.
Hope you can come see her in person!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kimonos for Angels

by Rachel Pollock

In my previous post, i wrote about the ombre dye processes for the tunics and loose pants worn by the Angels of the Principalities in our forthcoming repertory of Angels in America: Parts 1 & 2 (the Principalities appear only in Part 2). And, ombre is nice and all, and a lovely effect, but not really anything super challenging when it comes to surface design on fabrics. Executing specific imagery is when things get really interesting, i find.

Now for the really cool part: their kimono over-robes!

If you had a chance to page through Costume Designer Jan Chambers' photoset for the Angel Robes, you saw a lot of cool influences, but the standout of which was likely the ornate "Symphony of Light" landscape kimonos of textile artist Itchiku Kubota. In our conferences with her, Jan was particularly interested in the idea of the robes of the angels evoking Kubota's work, but utilizing collaged imagery evocative of each Principality--Oceania, Africanii, Europa, Antarctica, Australia, America, and Asiatica.

Jan collected a folder of landscape images from which to create the artwork for the robes, then worked them into watercolorey collages using image editing software--Photoshop and Illustrator. She then made another set of images to discuss with Director Brendan Fox, to show what the finished kimono would look like: Angel Robe Tests.

But, how to get these images onto the fabric for the robes themselves?

Obviously in an ideal world, as the crafts artisan and dyer, I and a team of talented assistants would hand-paint the robes in the yuzen technique, creating masterful works of art. Of course, that would be extremely time-consuming and difficult; you can read about Kubota's process here--each kimono took him a year, and he was a master of the art! Obviously we needed another solution to realize Jan's inspiration, so we turned to the local textile technology and research organization [TC]2 (TC-squared) and their InkDrop printing department.

Technically, this took the project out of my realm entirely and it became a matter of coordination between design, research, development, and management, worked out collaboratively with Jan, Costume Director Judy Adamson, and Adam M. Dill, Judy's assistant and PRC's costume shop manager. It's been an amazing process so far, and fascinating to witness.

InkDrop custom-prints small batches of fabrics with digital image files, much like the services of a company like Spoonflower. Adam explained the project to InkDrop consultant Lujuanna Pagan and hashed out a projected calendar and budget--when the art needed to be finished in order for the silk to be printed and delivered in time for Judy's team to cut and stitch it together in time to have the garments ready for tech of that scene. Judy worked out the size of the pattern pieces needed for each kimono and gave the dimensions to Jan, who split up her artwork into sections of the proper size.


Judy and Adam and I printed the artwork onto paper at half-scale using PRC's plotter, in order to lay out a test-version of the kimono before InkDrop printed the fabrics.
In this way, we could double-check that the art would match up across seams.


Lujuanna sent us this test-run of swatches of each of Jan's digital paintings, so she could approve the colors on the fabric before printing the multiple yards' worth.
Detail view of Africanii, showing some of the art and the color tests along the edge.
This is the section i used as a match-swatch when ombre-dyeing the accompanying garment blanks.

Two of the kimono lengths laid out on the tables in the costume shop for Jan and Brendon to survey before cutting and stitching commenced...

So, that's where things stand right now with those pieces. Fascinating! Now Judy and her first hand Claire Fleming will assemble them, and we'll check them out onstage once we get into tech. I promise to share photos of the finished garments after photo call. For now though, i really want to find a copy of Dale Carolyn Gluckman's The Kimono as Art, which depicts many of Kubota's original works in detail.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What do Angels wear?

by Rachel Pollock

At PlayMakers, we're well into production on Tony Kushner's epic two-part Angels in America, which we're running in repertory soon. I've got a ton of cool projects to share, the first of which being the costumes we're creating for the Angels of the Principalities, which appear in a convocation scene in Perestroika, Part 2.

Costume Designer Jan Chambers and Director Brendan Fox have a photoset of inspiration images that you can page through on flickr, to see some of the artwork that has informed the Angels' attire. Angel Robes photoset - This includes haute couture runway images and photoshoots, garment research, and textile art including the landscape kimonos of Itchiku Kubota.

This is the design by Jan Chambers of how the Angels will be dressed.
You can see from the design collage that they will each be clad in a base costume of a loose tunic and pants, with an ornate kimono robe worn over top. We are making the kimonos (which will be the topic of a second post to come), but we decided to purchase dyeable pre-made garments for the tunics and pants. We bought seven of these rayon poncho-tunics and these loose pants from Dharma Trading Company, a vendor that creates a huge line of garments from dyeable fiber-content fabrics.

Though not an ideal dye, i wound up using RIT for the ombre effects because it's fast, familiar, and we had the color range in stock. In an ideal world where i had the time for the testing and processing, and the budget for the dyestock, i'd love to have done these in fiber reactives. But, I have to go with what will achieve the effect desired in the time required with the budget available, so RIT it was! C'est la theatre!

The robes will be quite colorful, and every Principality has a different robe. The tunics match them in a watercolor-esque wash of dyes. Jan picked out a range of Pantone colors that should be incorporated into each effect, pulled from the palette from each Angel's robe art. The ombre (which means the gradation from one color to another, or from one lighter value to a darker one, down the length of a garment) will go from top to bottom on each garment, so the progression from color to color that happens to a tunic must happen the same way to the pants.

Because there were so many colors and i needed to process these as quickly as possible, i did them in batches. I often had up to eight pots of dyestuff going at once!

Our two dye vats plus some pots on the dyeroom range...

Photobucket some more colors cooking on portable eyes set up around the facility!
To achieve an ombre, you selectively dye the garment(s) in dipped washes, layering colors over one another like this:

Left: floral pastel washes for the Principality of Europa's garments.
Right: desert sunset colors for the Principality of America.

Those are hanging to dry after a rinse cycle, on our yardage hoist over the triple-sink. This is one of three batches of them that i did, all similar but in different color-combinations. The Europa garments are a three-color ombre--pink to peach to violet--and the America ones are grey to blue to brown.

Coincidentally, i'm teaching dye class this spring, so i've just overhauled my dye shop in preparation for sharing it with six students, all of whom will be novice dyers unfamiliar at first with the space. (That would be why i needed to push these dyed garments through the shop quickly over the university's winter break, before the course begins!)

This is the most exciting part:

Reorganized dyestuff shelving!

(Note spraybox and dedicated dye microwave, not for heating up lunches!)
This is one of two shelving units i have for supplies and equipment, and with the aid of volunteer crafts assistant Rae Cauthen, we completely overhauled its organization to be much more intuitive and space-efficient. Because RIT dyes are the simplest to work with and the most common dyestuff stocked in on-site theatrical dyeshops, the students do their first project with them, so RIT accessibility and organization was our first priority. This also helped me out in efficiently processing these Principality garment ombres.

Check out our chromatically-arranged shelves:

RIT dye organization!